Rest in Peace, Wes Craven (1939-2015)

Horror director Wes Craven passed away from brain cancer on August 30, 2015 at the age of 76.

Wes Craven

Wes Craven made many of my favorite horror movies. From an inauspicious debut in 1972 of The Last House on the Left, Craven would go on to dominate the horror genre for decades and found not one but three movie series.

Nightmare on Elm Street

Netflix has many of his films available for streaming. They have his classic Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) as well as his own revisionist take on it, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). These are the only two directed by Craven and not coincidentally, the two best in the series.

Scream

The first three Scream movies are also streaming. The first two are quite good and the third is enjoyable but quite tame in comparison. Skip Cursed and Vampire in Brooklyn unless you are a completist.

Speaking of Scream, the first six episodes of the new MTV television series are streaming on Hulu.

Rest in peace, Wes Craven. You will be missed.

Scream 2

Scream 2 is currently available on instant Netflix.

Scream 2 (1997) – Rated R

“In the two years since the fateful events in Woodsboro, Gale has written a best-seller, which has been turned into a film. As the movie premiere looms closer, the mysterious deaths begin again. Dewey heads to Sidney’s college to protect her.”

“There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – *carnage candy*. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead. “

Props have to be given to Scream for setting the whole series up but Scream 2 has a better cast, better jokes, and is generally the better film. Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson’s cross of ironic humorous detachment and actual suspense gel here just as well as they did in Scream. Scream 2 is funny and suspenseful.

Craven assembles a fantastic cast here. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette return as our heroes/victims Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers, and Deputy Dewey. Jaime Kennedy also returns hilariously as film geek Randy Meeks to warn us of the dangers of being in a sequel.

Liev Schreiber plays the recently released from jail, Cotton Weary. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rebecca Gayheart, and Portia de Rossi play sorority sisters. Joshua (Fringe) Jackson, Timothy (Justified) Olyphant, and Jerry (Piranha) O’ Connell are students. Laurie (Andy’s Mom in Toy Story) Metcalf is a reporter.

Acting as guest stars are Jada Pinkett Smith and Omar Epps explaining why you don’t see people of color in this type of film. Heather Graham, Tori Spelling, and Luke Wilson cameo as Casey, Sidney, and Billy in the movie within a movie, Stab. As you can see, you might get whiplash just pointing out who’s who in Scream 2.

One of the problems with slasher films is that much of the runtime is just filler between kill scenes with a bunch of stock cardboard characters (the jock, the slut, the nerd, the comic relief, the rich guy, the virgin). Here that time is filled with many humorous asides and a number of fairly exciting chase sequences. Characters are fleshed out and feel real. Humor is not restricted to the comic relief or the killer.

While none of the killings have the visceral brutal quality of the opening of Scream, most are quite inventive. One of the killings is particularly shocking and the reveal is almost as good as the one in Scream. Naturally, as one character handily points out, the body count is higher and the deaths are bloodier and more elaborate.

People Watch: There are plenty of cameos here. Matthew Lillard has a cameo as guy at party. Wes Craven has a cameo as a doctor. Selma Blair is the voice on the phone talking to Cici. Kevin Williamson is Cotton’s interviewer.

Sequel-itis: Scream 3 (2000) suffers severely from Kevin Williamson not doing the script. His Scream and Scream 2 scripts tread the fine line between suspense and humor. Scream 3 falls from sly humor into farce and there is little suspense.

Kevin Williamson comes back as scriptwriter in Scream 4 (2011) and it shows. Unfortunately the first two Screams mined the idea for most of its potential. The opening of Scream 4 is inspired and fun, the ending and many of the ideas are nice but it is not the classic that Scream and Scream 2 are.